Good teachers who push themselves too hard and suffer from burnout should be given sabbaticals to recover, the new chief schools inspector has said.
Sir Michael Wilshaw, who was making his first public appearance on the Commons Education Committee since being chosen to head Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, said the issue of teachers burning themselves out was "widespread", adding: "It is a tough job in the most challenging schools."
He told MPs: "When I've noticed somebody on my staff suffering from burnout and thought, 'This is a successful person who is not backsliding and just wants time off', then I've found money to do that."
The latest research shows that seven out of 10 teachers claim their health has suffered because of their job. According to the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, 51 per cent of those affected have seen a doctor and 36 per cent have taken time off.
Martin Johnson, deputy general secretary of the ATL, said the idea could "work well", bringing new ideas into schools and helping with the shortage of teaching jobs. But he added: "If job security was promised for those taking a sabbatical, heads would be knocked down in the stampede of teachers applying."
Sir Michael used the opportunity to set out his priorities in his new job. He said schools had a "hugely important part to play in society" because of growing levels of dysfunctionality.
"Schools and headteachers have got to become much more involved in the lives of children beyond the end of the school day and take a greater interest in what happens outside the school," he said. He added that raising school performance was one way of reducing the number of children ending up in care or on the streets. "If you've got a high performing school system then the number of youngsters referred to social services would be reduced," he said.
He cited figures showing that around 50 per cent of pupils failed to obtain five A* to C grades at GCSE and 200,000 left primary school each year without reaching their maths and English targets, describing this as a "serious issue".
Sir Michael also said he was anxious to change the regulations whereby schools ranked as "outstanding" by Ofsted were exempt from inspection. "Schools can decline and it's important that we know when they're declining," he said.